January 27, 2017
10 Tips For Surviving A Kitchen Renovation
Editorial director Alice Lawlor shares her best advice for living through a kitchen renovation.
It took about seven years of pinning, three months of planning and a summer of construction to take our kitchen from dreary to dreamy. You’d think that writing about beautiful homes everyday would make decorating my own place easier. In fact, I was finding it tricky to decide on anything. Thankfully, designer (and H&H alum) Sarah Hartill and Mason Brothers Construction came to the rescue, whipping up a clever plan for our small galley kitchen and finally getting us going. Some families move out during a reno, but my partner, Amy Knowles, our 2-year-old son Freddie and our cat Lucy decided to stay and live with the mess. Here are my tips for anyone planning to do the same.
See the finished kitchen in our March 2017 issue, on newsstands from February 6.
1. Save space for a temporary kitchen. Don’t pack away your crock pot, toaster oven, microwave, coffee machine and kettle. Get your contractor to move your old fridge to an adjacent room and create a makeshift kitchen with your small appliances. Raid your camping supplies (or those of your outdoorsy friends) for portable cooking equipment that can be used inside, and fire up the barbecue if weather permits.
2. Buy disposable tableware in bulk. Yes, you can setup a dishwashing station in the laundry room, but disposable plates, cups and cutlery will help keep you sane. You’ll need more than you think, so buy in bulk to ensure you don’t run out at an awkward moment. And if you’re concerned about the environmental impact of so much styrofoam, there are eco-friendly options if you shop around.
3. Earn points while you eat. The fact that you’ll be eating a lot of take out and restaurant meals goes without saying. What you may not have considered is earning points for all those meals and, eventually, money back for all the money spent. Smartphone apps like Ritual and Open Table help you either order food or book tables, and give you points every time you dine. We earned a $26 Open Table voucher for all our reno meals, which we put towards a fancy dinner to celebrate the end of the project.
4. The dust. Oh the dust! We all know that construction produces dust, but the sheer amount is staggering. And just when you think it’s done, there’s more, and in the weirdest places. Protect your art and anything special, even if they are nowhere near the kitchen or even on a different floor. Cover your temporary food-prep areas with drop cloths or plastic sheets when you’re not using them.
5. Plan a “friendcation.” When friends ask if there’s anything they can do to help with the reno chaos, don’t just smile and brush it off… suggest an overnight visit. Offer to buy the pizza and bring the wine — all they have to provide is a warm bed and a fully functioning kitchen. Everyone needs a break from coming downstairs to mess in the morning, and even one night away will do wonders for your state of mind.
6. Believe in the process. When you’re looking at a paint chip and a piece of flooring and trying to decide if they work together, it can be almost impossible to picture the finished space. When you’re faced with a “problem behind the walls” that slows everything down, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever be finished at all. But behind it all is a process, a natural order of things. This trade comes before this trade and so on. Trust in your contractor’s ability to keep it moving and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
7. Designate a play area for kids. Even if the entire contents of your kitchen is now spread around your main floor, try to keep a place that kids can call their own. Any kind of renovation is disruptive; a kitchen reno means that family mealtimes have gone south, too. A clean and tidy play space will help normalize the crazy.
8. Talk to your neighbours, and keep them posted. There’s nothing like a long, loud home reno to annoy the neighbours. Let them know the approximate timelines and the full extent of the work being done. Noise and dust travel more than you think, especially in a semi-detached house like ours. Ask your contractor to keep sociable hours, invite neighbours round to see how it’s going, and offer them wine when they do.
9. Be clear about your priorities. This is a difficult one. Sometimes you don’t know what element of the reno is a deal-breaker until it’s in jeopardy. But start the process by making a list of “must-haves” and “nice to haves” — talk to your partner about it and get a consensus — and then actually write them down. This will give you something to revisit if there are any difficult decisions later on.
10. Pay extra attention to your pet. Pets are the unsung heroes of home renovations, often spending the most hours in the house. If you’re doing a lot of structural changes, you may have to rehome your pet for a few weeks; talk to your contractor about what’s happening when. If you opt to keep your pet on site, like we did, make sure you groom them more often (that dust again!) and give them special treats to offset the stress.